Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another goat is not the answer

Before I drop the subject of Christmas for at least another year, I must mention a television commercial that ran in the weeks before the festive season to solicit donations to a Christian organization.

Viewers were told their contribution, however small, would help people in the "developing world". "The what?" I asked myself incredulously. "Are we still seriously using this term from the 1960s, when many people still believed the poor nations of the world would, with the right kind of education and assistance, be able to catch up with the West, and someday enjoy a similar, affluent lifestyle?"

We now know, of course, that this is simply not possible — that if everyone on planet Earth earth consumed precious resources, and polluted the environment, to the extent that we do, several planets would be needed to support them. And the sad fact is that we only have one.

In a final touch of irony, one of the TV commercials ended with a Christmas box opening to reveal a pretty white goat that was presumably destined for a "developing" community. I say the scene was ironic because, after man, the goat has probably done more than any other creature to degrade the environment (by stripping landscapes of their vegetation, and indirectly causing catastrophic soil erosion).

From a long-term point of view, another goat is thus a recipe for impoverishment.

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